by Drew Overholser, Member Advisor and Yoga Instructor
At 55, Sheri Warren was in the prime of her life. She had two wonderful sons, a loving husband, an adorable 4-year-old granddaughter, and a newborn grandson. Her granddaughter loved, loved, loved her grandma. As the Director of Sales and Retention, Sheri was my supervisor. She offered a rare combination of respected work colleague and friend. She gave me a chance at a job I needed four years ago and she created an environment I thrived in.
Sheri’s death is a tragic loss of the highest magnitude. I’m heartbroken over losing my friend. How did she die from a blood clot when she was a fit, active, vibrant person with a healthy diet, along with a nice Cabernet on occasion? Since she had a family history of blood clots and had a blood clot herself five years ago, it’s tragic that this latest clot wasn’t discovered before it killed her.
This is so scary. Could it happen to me? Could it happen to you? Is there anything we can do to reduce our risk? I believe there is. In 2010, I wrote a book called BVibrant, which included a chapter about circulation. The following is a modified excerpt from that chapter…
A few years ago I attended a presentation by Rob Daigle, who is a vascular technologist. His specialty is diagnosing vascular diseases and circulatory problems using ultrasound. He wrote a medical ultrasound textbook which is primarily about how blood and lymph circulate through the body. For this presentation, Rob brought in a Doppler ultrasound unit, a device that allows you to hear the blood flowing inside the arteries and veins in the body. He asked one of the students to remove a sock and shoe and roll up a pant leg. Rob put conducting jelly on the student’s lower leg, just above his ankle. Then he placed the ultrasound probe on the student’s leg where the jelly was. Then all of us in attendance took turns listening through headphones that were attached to the base of the Doppler device. The headphones allowed us to hear the sounds of blood flow inside our volunteer’s leg. In other words, the Doppler allowed us to hear circulation. It’s no great revelation that blood flows through the body all the time. Yet, to hear movement coming from the inside of a still leg is fascinating. Next, he asked the student to move his foot, ankles, and toes vigorously while we listened through the headphones. This movement, or exercise, changed the sound dramatically. Instead of just a gentle, soft swishing, the volume and amplitude of the sound increased dramatically. The lesson is this:
Movement increases circulation!
This information could save your life. Rob is a frequent flyer, traveling around the country giving presentations on vascular health. If your vascular system is not in particularly good shape AND you sit for a long period of time without moving, as we typically do on a flight, you could be at risk for a blood clot in the legs because your blood stagnates when you sit for long periods of time. If a blood clot develops in the veins in your legs, it has the potential to travel to your heart and lungs when you get up and start moving. If the blood clot is large, it can be fatal.
Rob says he periodically does simple leg and foot movements during long plane flights to keep his circulation flowing. This reduces the risk of blood clots and pulmonary embolus, a clot that travels to the lungs.
A friend of mine, Irit, who is a physician, added that the heart pumps blood to the limbs through arteries. Veins return the blood back to the heart. However, there is no pump that does this. Instead, movement or exercise is what creates the return of blood.
What actions can we take to reduce our risk? Here are three suggestions:
1. ROM exercise. For a long time, I’ve advocated for a simple non-weight bearing range of motion (ROM) exercise for healthy joints, ease of movement, and improved circulation. Consistent ROM exercise reduces stagnation and keeps blood flowing. It’s pretty obvious how important this is. Here’s a link to my ROM video. https://youtu.be/uDXNAlNBCSA.
Give this exercise video a try. It takes only about 15 minutes, it’s easy to do, and it feels great. Will it save your life? I don’t know. Surely it will reduce your risk. Next month I’m going to reshoot this video with the help of a professional videographer. Plus, I’ll make additional videos with other ROM exercises. These videos will be released as part of my website launch in October. Stay tuned!
2. You are in charge of your health. Sheri tended to put everyone else first. Although she did take care of herself, she didn’t urgently insist on getting the help she needed when it mattered the most. This is understandable. We tend to downplay our own needs. We don’t want to create a fuss. Doctors give us information, guidance, and valuable assistance. But you have to be the driver of your health. Keep asking questions and dig deeper for answers. Ultimately, you are responsible for your health. Many health issues that happen to you might not be your fault, but how you respond is up to you. Don’t wait. Take action. Insist on getting what you need.
3. Know your history. As the driver of your health, it’s your responsibility to know your history and health tendencies. There is so much diagnostic information available today. Take the time to use the valuable resources around you and get assistance from valued health care providers. Go to specialists if need be. Get your heart checked. Get your skin checked, here. Get your prostate checked. Do cancer screenings. Do dental and vision tests. Learn about healthy food choices from a dietician. Consider alternative therapies. Do these things so you know where you’re vulnerable, which helps you stay ahead of problems.
RIP my friend, Sheri.